Doing Something

I’m not too familiar with all of Frost’s poems and didn’t know of this one until I stumbled onto it.  This one is titled, Once By The Pacific (reproduced below).  The imagery of the water being “shattered” against the shore as if it were a solid thing; the personification of the waves that think of “doing something” to the shore: something sudden and malevolent; the clouds that seem to have faces inside them with their unkempt hair being strewn about the dark sky as if they couldn’t care less about their appearance at this time of impending doom.  Yikes!  Is this the end?


But what will be will be… and you know what?  And this is the good part:  there’s always chance and luck that are to be found in the most impossible of times and circumstances!  How fortuitous for the shore to be backed by the cliff!  And how serendipitous for the cliff to be backed by the continent!  Really.  Who would’ve thought?!  But that’s how it’s set up.  So, the menacing waves will come and do their damage to the shore, but lucky shore, it’ll be alright, you see, because of that cliff that’s got its back.  And the cliff itself will find itself standing long after the furious waves retreat because the continent’s got it covered.


So, let the “night of dark intent” come.  Bring it on!  Can destruction, damage and shattered hope last forever?  Don’t the waves have to eventually retreat– back to the ocean?  Doesn’t the night have to eventually end– in order for the sun to rise?  Isn’t it in the order of the universe for a balance to be restored– eventually? 


Well, now that I think about it, perhaps this isn’t such a pessimistic poem after all… perhaps frightening and even melancholy, but not completely without a subtle sliver of hope hiding behind every eventuality.  So, go on:  gird yourself with the strength and determination you might need in order to ride out the storm.  You might have to “do something” or have something done to you in order to help you survive, but survive you shall.  Or at least that’s what I choose to believe.


This picture?  This isn’t the shores of the Pacific.  It’s the shores of Lake Michigan.  Placid waters and shores, aren’t they?  Maybe there was a time when the waves did “do something” to the shore, but it looks just fine now, doesn’t it? 


And so, my takeaway from this lovely poem:  May it be that we experience all kinds of weather in this earthly journey.  And may it be that we weather those mean storms that come a-brewin’ every now and again.


Once by the Pacific

-Robert Frost


The shattered water made a misty din. 

Great waves looked over others coming in, 

And thought of doing something to the shore 

That water never did to land before. 

The clouds were low and hairy in the skies, 

Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes. 

You could not tell, and yet it looked as if 

The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff, 

The cliff in being backed by continent; 

It looked as if a night of dark intent 

Was coming, and not only a night, an age. 

Someone had better be prepared for rage. 

There would be more than ocean-water broken 

Before God’s last ‘Put out the Light’ was spoken.

 

This post was first published on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 in my private blog.

Waves-1

Free Winnings

Yet another old post first published on my private blog on Wednesday, October 29, 2008, made new today because it is worthy of finding a home here.  It’s about having had the pleasure of attending a Coldplay concert, and reflecting on some other related and not-so-related things!  And of course, there’s an audio clip of the post for your listening pleasure!

Coldplay

Click here for the audio recording of the post below:

FreeWinnings.m4a
Listen on Posterous
So, I won tickets to a Coldplay concert on the radio this morning.  It wasn’t my first time at winning freebies on the radio.  Actually, its happened many times before.  I must have good timing or something.  Or, maybe like my friend says, I’m just lucky.  Whatever the case, it’s a great feeling to get something for free, and to then also feel special in the knowledge that I beat someone else out to get them.  

 

And that got me thinking… aren’t those two human qualities universal:  the feeling of pleasure in receiving something for nothing, i.e, getting an undeserved or unpaid-for favor, and secondly, the feeling of pleasure in being a winner.

 

 Kind of like the gift of eternal life, you see.  It’s free, and it’s actually there for the asking.  For anybody.  And there’s nothing you can do to get it on your own, even if you wanted to.  You can’t buy it, and you certainly can’t earn it.  But you must ask for it, that’s all.  Oh, and here’s the other thing:  it’s never forced upon you, albeit free; it’s something you’ve got to want to ask for– all on your own.  Amazing concept, isn’t it?  How could something so valuable be absolutely free?  And besides, why is it being offered free in the first place?  And that too, to me?  What’s so special about me?  

 

Well, that’s what’s called grace or unmerited favor.  Grace that is borne out of love.  An incomprehensible Love (with a capital L) that reaches out to offer me something that I don’t deserve.  And makes me a winner!  

Better than Coldplay tickets.  I’m serious! 

 

 Reminds me of this lovely song by this other group called Casting Crowns.  How ironic and awesome that it is my very insignificance that makes me eligible for such an honor!  I am a flower quickly fading… check out the rest of the song for yourself, at:


 And the full lyrics are as follows:

 

Who am I? 

That the Lord of all the earth,

Would care to know my name,

Would care to feel my hurt.

Who am I? 

That the bright and morning star,

Would choose to light the way,

For my ever wandering heart.

 

Not because of who I am,

But because of what you’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done,

But because of who you are.

 

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow,

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling,

Lord, you catch me when I’m falling,

And you’ve told me who I am.

I am yours.

I am yours. 

 

Who am I? 

That the eyes that see my sin

Would look on me with love

And watch me rise again.

Who am I? 

That the voice that calmed the sea,

Would call out through the rain,

And calm the storm in me.

 

 The pictures?  Well, the one right here is Casting Crowns. The one on top is Coldplay.


Drive Into The Country For Lunch On A Winter Afternoon

Winterday

The Village of Dexter is a charming little village situated about thirty minutes from home.  It is the perfect distance to go for a ride on a gorgeous winter afternoon.  To take in the beauty of the season:  the snow from a couple days still a brilliant white, forming snow banks along the highway and the evergreens looking picture post-card perfect.

There is a stark beauty to this season.  So long as you’re bundled up when you’re outdoors, and have reliable transport to get around, what’s not to like about it?

Here’s a picture-story of our trip.  the houses, barns, churches, schoolyards, and shops in the village looked perfect against the beautiful white landscape.

And the Red Brick Kitchen and Bar on Main Street in Dexter wasn’t too shabby either– I highly recommend their Red Brick Beef Tips With Au Jus that comes with country-fries.

The slideshow isn’t working too well for now, so click here to go to the album.

With Egypt, Diplomatic Words Often Fail (America in an "impossible hole")

TWO different White Houses, two different speeches.

In June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stood before an audience of 600 at the American University in Cairo, assailed the Egyptian government for intimidating and locking up protesters and called for President Hosni Mubarak to hold free elections. “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither,” said Ms. Rice, infuriating the Mubarak government and heartening opposition leaders like Ayman Nour, an oft-jailed Parliament member, with whom she even held a meeting as part of her trip.

In June 2009, President Obama stood before an audience of 3,000 at Cairo University, and took a far gentler tone. “I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people, the freedom to live as you choose,” Mr. Obama said. But he then added, “There is no straight line to realize that promise.” Mr. Mubarak’s officials were euphoric after his speech; one called it “seminal.”

In the end, neither speech may have made much of a difference.

The chaos unfolding in Egypt is laying bare a stark fact, Middle East experts say: In the Arab world, American words may not matter, because American deeds, whatever the words, have been pretty consistent. Ever since that March morning 31 years ago, when Anwar el-Sadat reached out to clasp hands with Menachem Begin on the North Lawn of the White House after signing the Camp David peace treaty with Israel, the United States government has viewed the Egyptian government, no matter how flawed or undemocratic, as America’s closest ally in the Arab world.

Even when Ms. Rice and the Bush administration were infuriating Mr. Sadat’s successor, Mr. Mubarak, and calling for democracy in the Middle East, the reality was that the two governments were still, at their core, allies. Mr. Mubarak never forgave the Bush administration for the public flogging, officials in that administration say, but he met with Ms. Rice and President George W. Bush whenever they came through the region, and remained involved in Mr. Bush’s late efforts to negotiate Middle East peace.

And for all their calls for democracy, when it actually began happening in the Middle East, the Bush administration had to tack in the other direction. Palestinian elections in 2006, which the United States pushed for, led to victory for the militant Islamist organization Hamas, which the United States promptly blacklisted. Enter Mr. Obama, who came to office in 2009 vowing that he would make a major address from a Muslim capital early on, a promise he followed up with the Cairo speech. Determined not to repeat what it viewed as the mistakes of the Bush administration, the Obama administration limited criticism of Egypt to private conversations, and pointedly declined to publicly congratulate the government when it freed the jailed Mr. Nour, so as not to embarrass it.

Now, with the ascendance of democracy advocates on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and beyond, the United States has been tacking furiously again — this time to ally itself closer to the side of the protesters — while at the same time not getting too far away from its friend, Mr. Mubarak. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, encapsulated the administration’s dilemma Friday in words that made it clear that administration officials still hadn’t decided what to do. “We will be reviewing our systems posture based on events that take place in the coming days,” he told reporters, sounding like he was talking about a NASA launch, not chaos in Cairo.

A few hours later, his boss came out with the administration’s strongest posture to date on behalf of the protesters, trying to get ahead of any potential violent crackdown by the Mubarak government by calling on Egyptian authorities to “refrain from calling for any violence against peaceful protesters.” But he stopped short of calling for free and fair elections, limiting his remarks to a request for Mr. Mubarak to address the grievances of the Egyptian people.

America, said Robert Malley, a Middle East expert at the International Crisis Group, is in an impossible hole. “Every time we open our mouth, it runs a risk of hurting the objective we’re pursuing,” he said. “The more we appear to be backing the regimes we’ve been backing for decades, the more we place ourselves on the wrong side of history and the more we alienate the constituencies who could be coming to power.”

But, Mr. Malley added, “the more we side with the protesters, the more we’re hurting the existing relationships and appearing to be fickle.” For instance, the Obama administration’s latest distancing of itself from Mr. Mubarak may not go over well. “It’s not clear to me that the protesters will take seriously expressions of solidarity from a country that’s been backing autocratic regimes,” Mr. Malley said.

Martin S. Indyk, director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and a former United States ambassador to Israel, agreed. “We’re in completely uncharted territory,” he said. “This is a big deal with huge potential consequences for U.S. strategic interests in a vital region.”

The strategic importance of Egypt, the experts said, lies in its role as the cornerstone of American policy in the Middle East. The United States could not have sustained the wars it fought in Iraq without logistical support from Egypt’s government. Oil for Europe comes through the Suez Canal. Egypt is the largest and most militarily powerful Arab country. And most important to the United States, it is the crux of any American effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Sadat’s peace deal in 1979 with Mr. Begin made it next to impossible for other Arab states to contemplate going to war with Israel, and therefore opened a very slow — excruciatingly slow — process for the Arab world to come to terms with Israel.

All of that is why both of those Cairo speeches, for all of their oratorical differences, may not really have mattered at the end of the day, Middle East experts said. American governments need a partner in Egypt who supports the keystone of America’s Middle East policy, and Hosni Mubarak has been that partner for 30 years. “The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is the pillar of the structure in the Middle East,” said Edward P. Djerejian, a former American ambassador to Israel and Syria. “If the ’79 agreement goes asunder, everything falls apart. Everything falls apart.”  

Notes On A Scandal, 2006

Notesonascandalos

 

It’s a shame that it took me so long to get to this little thriller of movie, but I’m glad I finally did for more reasons than one.  Beyond the stunning acting of the two leading ladies, Blanchett and Dench, the story set in a seemingly-simple and small community in the UK suburbs forces you to sit up and take note of the not-so-simple circumstances that beset the most ordinary of people– people, who in their various roles of teacher, pupil, spouse, mother, friend, son, parent, sibling, child– struggle with moral and ethical dilemmas that have no clear-cut solutions at times…

And one can’t help but draw parallels to similar real-life stories of affairs between school-teachers and minors, and the consequences as they play themselves out, leaving most of the time a mangled mess of ruined relationships and wasted futures.

The added twist to this type of scandal in this story is the presence of the dark and scheming predator of a friend and colleague who is battling demons of her own where the concept of good vs. evil is turned on its head to the point that such a person will view themselves as savior, not predator.

Brilliantly acted, and masterfully presented, this is a movie meant to make you uncomfortable, even as you are being entertained.